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May 20, 2022 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Friday, May 20 12-1
Last Friday, we concluded our discussion of S. Yizhar’s 1949 novella Khirbet Khizeh. The group focused upon:
The reception of the book over the years: Military censors tried but failed to ban the story in 1949. Instead, it sold in unprecedented numbers. In 1964 Israel’s education ministry incorporated the story into the school syllabus, but students were tested less on the story’s central moral struggle and instead asked them to analyze the form and aesthetics of Yizhar’s writing. In 1978, a filmed version of the story precipitated a ferocious debate. Prime Minister Menachem Begin regarded the film as anti-Israel propaganda. One journalist wrote that, “Even if the Fatah Information Bureau were headed by a genius, he couldn’t have come up with a better one than this.” Nonetheless, the novel found new audiences when it was finally translated into English in 2008.
The book as an early example of what has come to be known in Israel as the “SHOOTING AND CRYING” genre, wherein a soldier in uniform expresses remorse for following orders undertaken throughout their service. We discussed the implications and alternatives in this regard (conscientious objection, questioning/contesting orders of superiors) and the universality of this theme in literature written before and after Yizhar’s novel. For a video on how recent IDF veterans reflected on this issue, see: https://truthout.org/video/shooting-and-crying-israeli-soldiers-after-their-service/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0z9ebiuUaU
What motivated the behavior of the soldiers depicted in the novella: peer pressure/moral individualism vs. collective authority; training/inculcation that the enemy is inferior; a response to atrocities carried out by Arabs against Jews. Books that detail what the soldiers may have witnessed or experienced include Siege in the Hills of Hebron and The Six Days of Yad Mordechai.
The continuing relevance of this novella in light of present events in Israel (settlements, death of Al-Jazeera journalist).
Participants agreed that conversation about this book and its relevance could continue for a long time–and without resolution in what one writer identified as a “toxic ecosystem.”
This Friday we will begin our discussion of Dara Horn’s 2021 National Jewish Book Award-winning essay collection, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present. The book challenges us to confront reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths and so little respect for Jewish lives unfolding in the present. We will share initial impressions of Horn’s book and discuss its Introduction and first two chapters.
Now in its 23rd year, our informal discussion group meets in person from 12-1 in CBI’s small chapel (with an option on Zoom for those who cannot attend in person). All are welcome to attend regardless of their level of expertise. Copies of Horn’s collection should be available in local bookstores and through the internet. If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at firstname.lastname@example.org.